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« Not So Free After All | Main | Re: Not So Free After All »

December 15, 2006

Re: Not So Free After All

Travis, you're right that students at many colleges and universities are left "unprotected." Dr. Vigen Guroian, a professor at Loyola College in Maryland and fellow of the Wilberforce Forum, writes about the "dorm brothel" problem in the current issue of BreakPoint WorldView magazine in article titled "After Hours on Campus: The Sexualization of the American College." (Worldview readers, chime in with your thoughts on the article!)

Sensational stories about the aggressive sex of athletes and debauchery in fraternity houses or at off-campus clubs spotlight only the tip of an iceberg. Sex is deeply and seriously disordered at the basic level of college life. As one young Loyola College co-ed wrote, “Here we can do everything we were told at home was wrong, and no one really cares, and no one is responsible. It’s like we live in a glass bubble; only no one looks in.”

What goes on every day in co-ed dormitories and apartments is far more significant than what comes into public view. How colleges structure and arrange student life and the supervision, or lack thereof, that they give to our sons and daughters determines a lot about their behavior at college and the attitudes toward the opposite sex that they take with them into life.

College experience has an impact on the marriages our sons and daughters make, and it contributes to the divorces with which many of those marriages end. The statistics are irrefutable. Sexual promiscuity and pre-marital cohabitation are strong predictors of marital trouble and divorce. It is at college that many young people first experiment with cohabitation and become accustomed to multiple sex partners.

And don't think this is just a problem on campuses with coed housing. As one student wrote to Dr. Guroian,

I am a senior at ______, a small historically black college and university. I cannot say that the rules it has in place for students is anything like those described at other colleges. Students living on campus have a curfew; the campus separates the “boys’ side” from the “girls’ side,” meaning that in order to get to a girl dorm, boys must walk over a mile.

There are visitation hours monitored by a security guard and dorm director. Nevertheless, during those unsupervised hours of visitation occur the most rampant sexual escapades known to man.

It's also not just a problem at secular universities. Christian colleges and universities also have risks. But as one parent and campus physician wrote to Dr. Guroian,

As a physician familiar with the college health setting and adolescent/young adult medicine, I can readily attest that there is an extremely high medical price for collegiates to pay for living out the risk behaviors described in the article. . . . Amid free-flowing alcohol that quickly impairs the judgment of young men and women, there is the stormy sea of intoxications, sexually transmitted infections, infertility, unintended pregnancies, abortions, HIV, AIDS, depression, suicide, accidental deaths in an ocean of brokenness.

As the one student above illustrates, eliminating coed dorms will not solve the problem, though it would be a big step forward. And just sequestering students at Christian colleges or single-sex universities also doesn't answer the problem.

Parents need to nag their undergrad students (don't worry about your popularity with them -- their future is at stake); a good time for a frank, open talk may be this next month while they're home between semesters (notice how we timed the WorldView article). And if you have a son, be obnoxious about your expectations of him, to treat women with respect and hold the higher standard at his school among his peers. Encourage them to have an accountability peer group (see www.collegewalk.com) or to get to know their dorm parents or another surrogate parent couple near their college to whom they can turn.

And alumni and professors, nag your universities to make real changes to prioritize the well-being of students -- from providing single-sex housing to cracking down on underage drinking, and other ideas that come to mind. Of course, there's more leeway on actions to take at Christian schools. But for the secular ones, hold their feet to the fire. Publicly shame a known problem. Maybe a letter-to-the-editor with information about a problem at the local university to spotlight it.

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Comments

Christy

If I may offer an additional piece of advice to parents of young college (and high school!) women (having been one myself only 4 years ago), remind your daughter that it is her responsiblity as well to set boundaries - in other words, don't wait for your (christian) boyfriend to do it for you. The expectation in Christian dating circles is that the young man will certainly have the maturity and selflessness to set boundaries and protect the couple from sexual sin.
Clearly the behaviors in secular, co-ed dorms mentioned above are the biggest problem, but my personal experience has been that too many well-meaning Christian girls don't take enough personal responsiblity for the situations they find themselves in.

CLH

Christy, I definitely agree. But, not to excuse any complicity, I think of the impressionable girls, eager for a boyfriend, desiring acceptance and a supposed "cool factor," who succumb to peer pressure from other girls and from their dates. It's easier for them to say "no" when there are more guys around offering the right friendship and offering respect.

Christy

CLH - absolutely. I think both genders need to step it up a bit! Really a great post, by the way. It definitely needs to be said...I hope lots of people take your advice and make this a public problem.
Anecdotally - I heard a mom at a Christmas party comment that she's going to get her 14 yr old the HPV vaccine...'just in case'. With the daughter standing right there!! That's the kind of attitude we need to see adjusted!!

Katharine Eastvold

I agree the mother you overheard shouldn't have said that in front of her teenage daughter - in effect, revealing that perhaps her expectations for her daughter's behavior aren't as high as they should be. But I do strongly believe that the HPV vaccine should routinely be given to young teenage girls. Whatever our expectations and no matter how carefully we raise our girls, things do happen, and do we want our daughters at risk for a deadly (and now nearly preventable) cancer as well as at risk for all the other ills of premarital sex, should they choose to go that direction? And what about rape?

The key, I think, would be to explain the vaccination to the daughter as a routine medical procedure, like getting any other kind of vaccine, rather than saying "just in case," as that mother did.

I remember my first visit, as a teenager, to an OB/GYN; she asked me if I was sexually active and when I said no, she excused my mother from the room and asked me again. I again insisted that I really was a virgin, but she didn't believe me until she examined me! Then she gave me the hard sell on birth control pills - "just in case." A different OB/GYN got the due date of my first child (born just about exactly nine months after my wedding day) wrong because she simply refused to believe that I hadn't had sex before my wedding night. It sounds funny, but actually the mistake resulted in an unnecessarily early induction, which turned out alright but could have been disastrous for me and/or the baby.

Dennis Babish

I agree with this article wholeheartedly. Working on a campus that is considered one of the top party universities in the country I read all kinds of problems with drinking and sex. I might add as well that this doesn't just begin when students get to school. They learn alot of this at home. The lifestyles of many of these students parents aren't any better than what's found at the universities. Many of these kids are raised seeing a parent bringing home someone that stays overnight and then they never see them anymore. They see their parents drinking heavy, doing drugs, and who knows what else. So to them this is normal. The article the other day on the book "Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters" needs to be read by all parents. Parents also need to see their lifestyle today will impact their children's lifestyle tomorrow. As one person said "What parents do in moderation their children will do in excess".

Holly

It's because of issues like these that I (a senior) am not considering any non-Christian schools, except for public ones, which is only because of the tuition and proximity factors.

Matt

Do you actually think that sexual morality is that much better at Christian schools? From my experience, it is just hidden better and not flaunted in the open. One of my friend in college were both really strong Christians. However, when they came back from summer break they were engaged cause she was pregnant.

Hiding in a bubble isn't going to make the problems go away.

Holly

Please don't think you know enough about anyone from one comment she's written on a blog to criticize her choices and accuse her of hiding in a bubble (which is about the farthest thing from my life).

I stand by my opinion of Christian colleges, which is based on my experience as well.

Sean

I would like to see a well thought out theology of why a woman/man should not live with a man/woman as a roommate if they have seperate rooms and are not romantically interested or involved. WWJD. So far, the applicable principles I see applying are: Phil. 1:10 which encourages us to be pure and blameless and Phil. 2:14-16 to shine like stars, 1 Corinth. 10:23-33 with the wonderful permissible but not profitable and don't cause another to stumble, Matt. 6:13 lead us not into temptation,and the general warnings to flee temptation and be above reproach (as an elder or deacon.) Also, there is the admonishion to avoid every appearance of evil. What else am I missing?

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